Since Ron Rivera arrived in Carolina we've witnessed a paradigm shift on the part of the organization as they moved from being the tight-lipped, hidden organization to a more open are forthright team who interact with their fan base and become more engaged on a daily basis with the community.
Last year HBO were looking for teams for Hard Knocks, and at that time we discussed the possibility of Carolina filling that void. The consensus was that the Panthers didn't need the distraction, but they desperately needed some good PR following a 2-14 season that left some fans disillusioned, and others who separated themselves from the team all together.
Now the Carolina Panthers find themselves in a very different place; one where ‘Hard Knocks' doesn't make any sense, and staying the course is far more logical that doing anything flashy. To understand why is to understand how ‘reality' TV can affect an organization, and we'll look at that...
After the jump
On a personal level- I love ‘Hard Knocks'. As someone who so intently loves this game I'll do anything to get a glimpse of the behind the scenes of an organization, and understand players better. However, it's also important to take the show with a grain of salt. In producing TV you need to find drama, and in each season this casts players in roles of ‘good guys', ‘bad guys' and something in between. It's astounding how much a good editor can completely change the way a person looks by choosing some key shots, or grabbing the right sound bites.
Why then do teams participate? In short, because they follow the model of ‘All publicity is good publicity', even if this isn't always the case. Prior to their stint the New York Jets looked like a carbon copy of the Baltimore Ravens, after their season the Jets because their farcical little brother- it was a year that generated more punch lines than storylines. Teams who are trying to rebrand themselves, or attract new fans are desperate to change public perception. Look no further than the Jacksonville Jaguars, who it's said were begging HBO to be featured in 2012- but to no avail.
Spend a little time following the Carolina Panthers and you'll see how much Jerry Richardson would detest this kind of dog and pony show. This is a man who was frustrated at Peyton Manning and Drew Brees being in CBA negotiations because he felt it added a circus element to important business meetings. How then would the Big Cat feel about an entire TV crew, cameras and rigmarole being in Spartanburg to take time from his players, and turn his business into a circus? My guess is that he would utterly hate it.
This is the dichotomy the Panthers will be facing in years moving forward. The organization stand on the precipice of having the biggest young star in the NFL; a player who thrives in the limelight and is happy to be plastered on billboards, and magazine ads contending with an organization who prefers to stay in house. We don't know if HBO came knocking in Charlotte, but the fact they were willing to settle for Miami probably tells you the lack of interest league-wide. It's become a pursuit for teams desperate to generate hype, even if it means sacrificing the solvency of the locker room in camp. The Carolina Panthers don't need the hype, they don't need to sell PSL though PR stunts- all they need to do is stay the course, continue their social media interaction and let the record speak for itself. While I'd love seeing Cam and Co. on HBO each week, I understand why it would be the perfectly wrong move for the Carolina Panthers.